Q&A

Calgary actor in lead role of Street Legal reboot started in corporate finance

Prior to Heartland, the longest running one-hour Canadian drama on television was Street Legal, airing from 1987 to 1994. The reboot starts tonight and one of the lead roles went to Calgary actor Yvonne Chapman, who started in corporate finance before going all in on acting.

Before Heartland, Street Legal was the longest running hour-long Canadian drama on TV

Yvonne Chapman plays Mina Lee in the new Street Legal, which premieres Monday night. (Susan Holzman/CBC)

Prior to Heartland, the longest running one-hour Canadian drama on television was Street Legal, airing from 1987 to 1994.

The reboot starts tonight and one of the lead roles went to Calgary actor Yvonne Chapman, who started in corporate finance before going all in on acting.

Chapman, who plays Mina Lee in the reboot, sat down with The Homestretch ahead of the premiere Monday evening.

This interview has been edited and paraphrased for clarity and length. You can listen to the complete interview here.


Q: What was your reaction when you got the job?

A: My family and I were just so happy I had a job. I was thrilled.

It became very clear to me very quickly how iconic this TV show was. To be a part of that is just amazing.

Q: Were you familiar with the original show?

A: I was a little bit young for the show, but my family watched it.

My grandma was a huge fan of the original series. She was like, "I remember there was this really beautiful lawyer with dark hair and short bangs. She was feisty, I liked her." "You mean Olivia Novak (Cynthia Dale)? I get to work with her," I said.

Q: What is this new version of Street Legal about?

A: It follows Cynthia Dale's character, Olivia Novak, from the original series. She is filing a class action lawsuit against a big pharmaceutical company for manufacturing this highly addictive opioid — so very relevant to what we see now in the news.

My firm, RDL Legal, beats her to the punch and file before her. So she comes to us and we try to figure out a way to work together.

Q: What is it like working with Cynthia Dale, and I hear Eric Peterson is back as well?

A: Anthony Sherwood who played Dillon Beck in the original, he is coming back for an episode, too. I can't say enough about these guys.

They are amazing, they are masters at what they do. To have all of them on set and to be witness to that, them coming back together, that reunion.

They are so much of the original heartbeat of the show. To have them there for guidance, as well, that has been amazing.

Q: But is it intimidating as well?

A: Oh, yes. It was a fear I had going into the show but the second you get on the set and start working with them, that fear was so unwarranted.

They are so warm and so kind and so gracious with everything they do.

Premieres March 4 on CBC. 0:59

Q: Is there tension among the show's characters, with the different generations?

A: Of course, tons. We are seeing different generations of law and how these people practise from the traditional methods versus the new millennial way.

There is a lot of tension with Mina and Olivia to start with, because she is coming into the firm out of nowhere.

Mina has had a bad experience with Bay Street lawyers in the past. She left that on purpose and started the firm RDL Legal to get away from all of that.

Q: I understand you briefly thought about being a lawyer in real life?

A: I was young and really good at arguing, so I thought I could do that for a living. Clearly it didn't work out.

Q: Did you always want to be an actor?

A: I did. Growing up, I loved acting, but it just didn't seem like a viable, practical option for me. So it took me a while to follow my passion.

I started off working in corporate finance in Calgary, which I also really liked, but I loved acting.

So I moved to Vancouver about five years ago and pursued acting.

It was the longest running one-hour Canadian drama until Heartland dethroned it. Street Legal originally ran from 1987 to 1994. Now it's back! The series has been rebooted and it launches on Monday. One of the leads is a Calgary actor who has played characters in The 100 and The Crossing. Yvonne Chapman plays a lawyer named Mina Lee. She spoke with host Terri Campbell. 7:53

With files from Susan Holzman and The Homestretch

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